Coping with coronavirus, week ten

05/20/2020

With the coronavirus forcing much of the public to stay at home, these are unusual times in West Marin. Now two-and-a-half months into a shelter order, many are wondering what the future holds. Alongside our coverage of the pandemic, the Light is offering windows into the lives of our readers. This week, we talked to a baker and a principal.

Balancing elements 

Everything that sold yesterday at Brickmaiden Breads was free, thanks to an anonymous donor. “One of my supporters—a friend, a customer, a local community member—wanted to liven the spirits of the town, help support Brickmaiden, and help the people who needed the food, all at once,” said Celine Underwood, who opened a retail shop in Point Reyes Station last year after two decades in business. The stresses of keeping a small bakery afloat are familiar, but Ms. Underwood said she couldn’t have faced the new uncertainties alone: the support of her government, community and staff has been vital. When the shelter order first came down, she was living “day-by-day and minute-by-minute,” she said, but then she received a Paycheck Protection Program loan and mortgage relief from the Small Business Association. She’s waiting on another loan, which could give her some security past the next four to six weeks. Although she has lost some of her employees to other responsibilities, her smaller crew is able to match current demand. Ms. Underwood and her staff, who have implemented stringent sanitation and social distancing procedures, reassess on a daily basis: some days she feels positive, and other times it’s her employees who do the encouraging. “As long as my bakers and my staff need the work, that’s my obligation to keep it going. As long as I have the drive—I wake up and it’s here, today—that’s what’s going to happen,” she said. Ms. Underwood said customers at first were buying “less frivolously,” primarily bread—and in bulk—but over the last several weeks she is selling more coffee and pastries. Still, she doesn’t know what the near future holds. “I’m very nervous about how the next few months will proceed as far as business, tourism and community,” she said. “Living here as a resident, being a community member comes first for me, and my business is reflective of that. I’m apprehensive about how to balance all of those elements as things open up more. How will this look for us? How do we keep everyone safe?” 

Rewards and challenges

Laura Shain, principal of the Lagunitas School District, has remained optimistic as she meets the challenges of each new week. Most recently, concern over the future took hold. “The thought of starting the school year off, still with online learning, to me that’s a disappointing thought,” she said. Although her teachers have “stepped up incredibly,” normal classroom dynamics are impossible to achieve through distance learning. “It is very difficult having everything go through a computer,” she said. “Being a student in normal times, peer-to-peer is not only part of their socializing but also their learning, and they are now doing that in isolation.” Parents are worried their children are falling behind, though she said the district won’t be able to really assess until everyone is back on campus. “The anxiety this sort of thing creates is hard to put your finger on: you don’t even imagine it could happen, and when something unimaginable happens, that opens the door to thinking about what else could happen,” she said. Kids are missing one another above all else, she said, but “there’s also this sense of missing even the inconveniences they had before, such as floor cleanup. They say, ‘If I could go back, I’d do that every day.’” On the bright side, the intensity of her job—which accelerated in the first few weeks after the campus closed—has relaxed and she says she enjoys “not rushing.” She has new habits, including listening to more books on tape while working in her garden or going for walks, cooking, and taking time during her day to sit in the sun. It’s also been a welcome change to spend more time with her partner, who usually commutes to the city. “Pieces of this have felt really rewarding,” she said. “And I’m always thinking, if students are finding a balance, how do you keep that? For example, if technology is reaching some kids who weren’t as connected in the past, how can you keep that?”